To Stay or to Go?

Have you ever had a MONDAY where you just wanted to give up? If you are honest, we all have had those days. You have prepared for the service and preached the gospel faithfully to the people that attended on Sunday, but Monday comes, and you fall victim to the emptiness of the service less than 24 hours before. Questions begin to swirl in your mind, where are the people? Am I the problem? Is there a way out for me and the church? Should I stay or go? Do the people even like my family and me? 

The spirit of discouragement sets in in the recesses of your mind, and it seems all hope is lost. This spirit is being felt weekly by pastors serving in the hard places of ministry. As a pastor who has served in the season of ‘in-between,’ not knowing if one should stay or go from the current assignment, my heart goes out to you. But I want you to ask yourself, why do I serve? For God, the church, the community, or yourself? In the times of greatest discouragement, I believe God draws ever so close to the one inflicted with pain, and it is through the pain the promise of better days comes about in your life.

Evaluate the Why behind the What.

Industry leaders find it difficult to pause and experience self-reflection, but it is a healthy component of longevity in a leadership position. As a pastor, you face the triple challenge of faith, family, and finances as you lead the local church. Due to the pandemic-induced inflation, the church has been rocked by multiple spiritual explosions that have caused doubt and discord in your midst and have forced you to take a hard look at your leadership style. Before making any significant decisions, find time on a lunch break or another time when you can crave thirty minutes to an hour to be alone with God. Begin to ask the why. Why are you feeling this way? Why is this happening? Why can’t I move forward? Why do I have to stay? And then allow God to show you. It may take time and more conversations, but over time, God will begin to reveal the calling, the what, behind the why you are going through this in-between season.

Spend the time, all the time you may need to reflect on receiving the answers you need in your ministry. Without reflecting on the ‘why,’ you will never experience all God has for your church. You might want to run to the next assignment, but the why will show up there until you deal with the what behind it. If you trust God, you must trust the in-between season and see it as a season of advancing in making you a better leader for the days you are entering.

Focus on the essential things. 

If you are disheartened, focus on what matters, and leave the rest for another day. Too many pastors try to lead from a spiritual wasteland by starting something new and burning out soon after. Realize that when the spiritual tank is empty, give yourself permission to pause and allow others to provide direction. Focus on the critical areas of your responsibility (preaching, teaching, and pastoral care), and let others lead their ministry areas. While they might not do it the way you would, understand that you are running on fumes and must conserve your leadership energy until you move beyond a season of in-between. Starting something new as a spark of hope will only flame out and cause more harm to the ministry because it has not been cured in prayer or your full participation. God has a plan for your church. He has a purpose for the pain and plans to transfer the unknown into the known through a renewal with him.

Focus on what matters right before you. Focus on the big and most important things, and allow others to direct areas they oversee. Only take back areas once you are spiritually and mentally healthy to move on or move into the new season with your current assignment. In the in-between season, God is realigning you for the journey ahead. Do not rush the process but allow God to restore what has been lost through time.

One Step Forward.

As God begins to speak with you about your future, understand that it will take time to achieve clarity. Understand that you did not get into your current season of in-between overnight, and no silver prayer bullet or program will lead you out. Where you find yourself today, what happened over time and time, will become the answer to complete healing. In the meantime, focus on the next step in front of you. Stay calm and focus on today and not three months from now. Focus on getting through the next service or class you must teach weekly. Focus on the broad vision of the church while you drill down on your health and, ultimately, the direction for the church. 

Take the opportunity to become a better pastor and visionary leader. Do not rush the in-between season but focus on God’s steps before you. As you pray, ask God to provide clarity of call to continue your current assignment or seek a new one. But, before you move forward, ensure you are not taking the baggage of your current position into the next one, as that will hamper your future ministry. Permit yourself to slow down, pray and be alone with God. Enable others to take up slack in your leadership portfolio and take the next step before you to be the called leader you are to be for the kingdom.